Microchip introduces radiation-tolerant PolarFire SoC FPGAs for space applications

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Developers of spacecraft electronics use radiation-tolerant (RT) field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to ensure high performance, reliability, power-efficiency and security for emerging space domain threats.

Credit: Microchip

In order to provide faster, more cost-effective software customisation, Microchip has introduced the RT PolarFire system-on-chip (SoC) FPGA.

Developed on Microchip’s RT PolarFire FPGA, it is the first real-time Linux capable, RISC-V-based microprocessor subsystem on a flight-proven RT PolarFire FPGA fabric, and it means that developers can now start designing using the commercially available PolarFire SoC (MPFS460) device and Libero SoC development tools.

Along with Microchip’s extensive Mi-V ecosystem, PolarFire SoC solution stacks, the PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit or the PolarFire SoC Smart Embedded Vision Kit, developing lower power solutions for the challenging thermal environments seen in space has now been made easier.

Safety-critical systems, control systems, space and security applications benefit from the flexibility of the Linux Operating System (OS) and the determinism of real-time systems to control hardware. RT PolarFire SoC FPGAs feature a multi-core Linux-capable processor that is coherent with the memory subsystem. The RT PolarFire SoC enables central satellite processing capabilities similar to those in single board computers which are common in the space industry for command and data handling, in platform avionics and in payload control. The SoC allows for flexible implementation of highly integrated designs, customisation and evolution of function while improving size, weight and power considerations.

Systems deployed in space are subjected to harsh radiation, prompting design methodologies that can provide protection for the most critical radiation-induced upset types.

Unlike SRAM FPGAs, the RT PolarFire SoC is designed for zero configuration memory upsets in radiation, eliminating the need for an external scrubber and reducing the total system cost. Satellites are designed to deliver both peak and average power and to dissipate heat through conductive paths, namely metal. Starting with a SoC FPGA it is possible to reduce power consumption by up to 50 percent which simplifies the entire satellite design.

“By delivering the design ecosystem for the industry’s first RISC-V-based radiation-tolerant SoC FPGA, Microchip is driving innovation and giving designers the ability to develop a whole new class of power-efficient applications for space.” said Bruce Weyer, corporate vice president for Microchip’s FPGA business unit. “This will also allow our clients to add enhanced edge compute capabilities to aerospace and defence systems.”

Microchip’s comprehensive Mi-V ecosystem helps designers cut time to market by providing support for symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) rich operating systems like Linux, VxWorks, PIKE OS and more real time operating systems like RTEMS and Zephyr.

Mi-V is a comprehensive suite of tools and design resources, developed with numerous third parties, to support RISC-V designs. The Mi-V ecosystem aims to increase adoption of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) and support Microchip’s SoC FPGA portfolio.

The RT PolarFire FPGA has already received the Qualified Manufacturers List (QML) Class Q designation based on specific performance and quality requirements as governed by the Defense Logistics Agency. There is also a clear path for this device to achieve QML Class V qualification, the highest qualification standard for space microelectronics.